By Adam Gore
Special to the Journal
ORLANDO – Odie Armstrong came close, but never won a championship during his playing days at Vardaman High School, Itawamba Community College or Northwest Oklahoma State.
After the Arizona Rattlers’ 48-39 win over the Philadelphia Soul (12-6) in ArenaBowl XXVI in Orlando, Florida on Saturday, Armstrong is now a two-time world champion.
“It feels amazing,” Armstrong said during the post-game celebration. “I wouldn’t want to be here with another group of guys. We have been blessed to be here three years straight and to win two-straight championships.”
Armstrong carried the ball twice for 2 yards while having a 9-yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty.
“They were keying on Odie all game long, so we couldn’t get him in the mix as much as we wanted to,” said Arizona head coach Kevin Guy. “When he did get in the end zone, it got called back on a questionable holding call, but Odie played an extremely physical game and did a great job giving Nick (Davila) time to throw.”
He also hauled in a pass after it was deflected by a Soul defensive lineman and scrambled for eight yards to help set up the difference-making touchdown.
“My guy wasn’t rushing so I had my head on a swivel,” Armstrong said about the play. “I saw the ball in the air and caught it to keep the drive alive and we went on to score to go up two possessions. It was a big play, but it was just one play of an overall great team effort that made this happen.”
The former ICC star wrapped up the first year of a two-year contract he signed with the Rattlers (15-3) after last year’s title run.
“Odie is a big part of our team,” Guy commented. “He is a well-respected leader amongst the team and is a fan favorite in Arizona. He has been a big key to all the success we’ve had over the past three seasons.”
Davila (20 of 29, 315 yards) threw six TD passes as Arizona become the first team since Tampa Bay in 1996 to successfully defend an Arena Football League title.
Rod Windsor had 10 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns, and Maurice Purify caught four passes for 83 yards and two scores.
Philadelphia QB Dan Raudabaugh was 31 of 51 for 306 yards and four touchdowns.